Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues are set to return to television in a starry revival by the BBC and Nicholas Hytner’s London Theatre Company.
Jodie Comer, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, Lucian Msamati and Kristin Scott Thomas are among the 12 actors who will each perform a monologue as part of the project, which will be made following the latest government guidelines and with no cast and crew "within touching distance of each other".
Talking Heads, which originally aired on television over two series in 1988 and 1998, will once again be shown on the BBC, with filming beginning today.
Bennett described the BBC’s decision to remount the production in present circumstances as "a comfort and a huge compliment".
In addition the existing works, he has written two new monologues for the 2020 remake, both of which will be directed by Hytner, his long-time collaborator.
The former National Theatre director will take on three monologues, while the roster of directors also includes Josie Rourke, Jeremy Herrin, Marianne Elliott, Sarah Frankcom, Nadia Fall and Jonathan Kent.
The remaining actors are Monica Dolan, Tamsin Greig, Sarah Lancashire, Lesley Manville, Maxine Peake, Rochenda Sandall and Harriet Walter.
Hytner, who will produce the series alongside Kevin Loader, said the monologues were among Bennett’s "masterworks".
"It has been a profound and fascinating experience to work out a way of making them again, this time with a company of phenomenal actors who are the equal of those who first made them; with a group of leading theatre directors, colleagues and friends of long standing; and with a team behind the camera that represents the best of the British TV and film industries," he said.
Filming is taking place at the BBC’s Elstree Studios, using existing sets, and Hytner said the production process would be carried out in a totally new way.
"Everyone involved has been working in an unprecedented way, rigorously observing social distancing, entirely rethinking ways of film-making that until a few weeks ago seemed routine. The shoot will never bring any of us within touching distance of each other, but I hope that in every other way it will reach out and touch millions of viewers. We are all of us beyond grateful to the BBC for setting us this challenge," he said.
The original Talking Heads cast included Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Eileen Atkins and David Haig, as well as Bennett himself.
The full programme of monologues, to be broadcast on BBC One: